Castlegar skier Jeff Ashton recently competed in the 2016 Freeride Junior World Championships. The competition was held at the Grandvalira Resort in Andorra (a tiny country between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains) on January 26-30.
Ashton and his fellow Canadian teammates had a good showing in the competition. Ashton placed 21 in the men’s competition, with two Nelson skiers, Nigel Ziegler and Sam Kuch placing second and fourth. Two female skiers from Nelson, Haley Cooke and Savannah Leishman placed eighth and twelfth in the women’s competition. The athletes qualified for the competition based on their rankings in North America and Canada last year.
Being on the international stage meant a bit of a different experience for Ashton, who has qualified for the IFSA North American Championships for the last three years. “It was a completely different experience for me. Being around the best skiers from all parts of the world really changes the atmosphere,” he explained. “It was also a lot more pressure than I am used to, with the cameras and the helicopters and all the surroundings! It really had the professional, championship vibe.”
Freeski/freeride is becoming increasingly popular as a competitive sport, with numbers growing each year. The judged event takes skiers over steep terrain, cliffs and rocks. Competitors are judged on five different criteria: line choice, control, fluidity, technique and style/energy.
Skiers were allowed to visually inspect the run, but were not allowed to ski it until their turn on the day of the competition. Due to unfavorable snow conditions, the event had to delayed for a few days. “The day that I skied the conditions were variable,” said Ashton. “In the morning the snow was stiff and icy but as the day went on it warmed up and got softer and softer. It is extremely difficult to choose your run with conditions like this because you never really know what the snow will be like until you drop in for your run.”
Ashton plans to continue skiing competitively for as long as possible and is appreciative of all who have supported him. “I would just like to give a thanks to all my supporters and friends who have helped me out along the way,” he said. “I would also like to thank my sponsors: Mallards Source For Sports, Line Skis, Oakley, FullTilt Boots, Outdoor Tech, Gerick Sports, and Stohke.”
Photos, videos and information about the competitors can be found at freeridejuniortour.com.